Article written by HLS student Lerae Kroon
After months of advocacy, HLAB student attorney Chris Suenram’s hard work paid off. He delivered a baby to his client.
Suenram’s advocacy reunited Jasmine* with her baby girl after two-and-a-half months apart. Domestic violence forced Jasmine from the home she shared with her husband and his family.
Jasmine and her husband were married overseas through an arranged marriage. They came to Massachusetts with their baby and moved in with his family. She almost immediately became the target of abuse from her husband and his relatives. Jasmine was essentially a slave in the home — she was confined to the house, had no keys, and was not allowed to call her family overseas or do anything without permission. The family believes female children are “liabilities” and subjected Jasmine to verbal abuse and physical violence.
When Jasmine contacted HLAB, she was staying in a shelter. She spoke very little English and had no family or friends in Massachusetts. When she fled, her husband prevented her from taking the baby and also did not allow her any further contact.
Once HLAB took her case Suenram got right to work. With the support of his third-year mentor and his supervising attorney, he crafted a legal strategy to meet her immediate goal of getting her baby back.
One step was the hearing for temporary custody at the Probate and Family Court, where Suenram argued for Jasmine to be given full custody of her baby. He prevailed and mother and daughter were reunited. “The social worker has told me that the transition has gone incredibly well,” said Suenram.
The power disparities in Jasmine’s case are prevalent among clients in HLAB’s Family Law practice. Many HLAB clients are victims of domestic violence, and face financial and emotional obstacles.
“It’s not exaggerating to say that Jasmine could not have obtained this result without legal assistance,” said Suenram. “It’s pretty amazing what she has been able to achieve in terms of standing up for herself and finding people who were able to help her. She still has a long road ahead, but I am confident that she will be able to achieve a good life for herself and her children.”
*Not her real name